ABC Streams 9/11 Miniseries Ad-Free, Brings Controversial Blog Back

ABC learned yesterday how problematic it is--both politically and fiscally--to position the fifth-year anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks as entertainment, when its miniseries "Path to 9/11" came under fire.

The liberal think tank Center for American Progress released a statement calling upon ABC "to amend or not run its 9/11 mini-series ["The Path to 9/11"] due to factual inaccuracies." The network told Variety it would air the six-hour docudrama without commercial interruption or corporate sponsorship.

Also, late Tuesday afternoon, ABC restored a blog-- its Web site devoted to discussion of the program. The blog had been removed Sunday after allegations of right-wing political bias from the film's creative team dominated the virtual conversation. ABC did not respond to repeated calls for comment.

In an interview published in Variety yesterday, the network's Entertainment President Steve McPherson acknowledged the "limiting" ad opportunities presented by the miniseries. He said ABC had conversations with advertisers--including siblings in the Disney empire--about partnerships, but "none of it made sense."



Instead, ABC will air the two-part, $30 million "Path to 9/11" on Sunday, Sept. 10, and Monday, Sept. 11 without commercial interruption. Originally slated for two three-hour time slots, the missing commercial time will now require short-news programs to fill the gap.

McPherson also told Variety that ABC will make the program available for free on Apple's iTunes store, and it will be streamed for free via An audiocast of the miniseries will be available on XM Satellite Radio for its subscribers.

The Center for American Progress slams the program for including a scene where the Clinton administration refuses to give the order for the CIA to take out Osama Bin Laden when they have his house surrounded--an assertion "not supported by the 9/11 Commission Report upon which the program is purportedly based."

ABC reinstated a blog about the program--written by the miniseries' director and writer, David Cunningham and Cyrus Nowrasteh, respectively--late Tuesday afternoon. Bloggers' comments are almost universally negative, noting Nowrasteh's right-wing sympathies and bias against the Clinton administration. (Rush Limbaugh claims to be a friend, and plugged the program on his syndicated radio show.)

But even if the blog backfired on ABC, it made a bigger mistake by removing it and then having to restore it, says one expert. "Whenever you start talking about 9/11, it invites talk of conspiracies. What's a better conspiracy theory than you've got a blog, and then you take it away?" asks Phil Gomes, vice president of Edelman me2revolution. "It's like, what are you trying to hide?"

However, Gomes notes that ABC's response shows it is listening to the public, which is smart. But he suggests that they capitalize on the furor. "[ABC's] got a big opportunity here. People are going to be hyperlinking to other sources. They can take it all in and run with the recommendations of the crowd," Gomes says. "Because if they don't do it, somebody else is going to visit the site and take the ball and run with it."

Next story loading loading..